Exporting guide to United States

Overview

The US is the UK’s largest export market for goods and services and the world’s largest economy. With low regulatory barriers, minimal language barriers and access to the global supply chain, it offers huge potential for UK exporters. However, the US is a federal system, not a single national market. This means you will need to treat each state as a separate entity with its own procedures and regulations.

Trade statistics

£133.9 billion total UK exports to United States for the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2022)

largest UK export market

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2022)

20.7% of total UK exports for the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2022)

Demand for UK goods and services

UK products and services are in demand in the US and have a strong reputation for quality. As with all large markets there is a diverse range of opportunities for exporters with the right product or service.

A broad demographic

The US is a hotbed of cultures and nationalities and has a broad demographic in terms of age. This benefits UK exporters who are looking to explore different markets in one geographic

Top five UK goods exported to United States, in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022

Goods Value (£billion)
Medicinal & pharmaceutical products 5.0
Cars 4.7
Mechanical power generators (intermediate) 3.1
Scientific instruments (capital) 2.2
Organic chemicals 2.1

Source: ONS Trade in goods: country-by-commodity exports
Last updated: July 2022
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for United States.

Top five UK services exported to United States, in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022

Service Value (£billion)
Other Business Services 40.7
Financial 19.2
Insurance and Pension 9.0
Telecommunications, computer and information services 6.4
Intellectual property 4.0

Source: ONS UK trade in services: service type by partner country, non-seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2022
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for United States.

United States: at a glance

Economic growth

5.7%

Actual figure (IMF, 2021)
The UK is 7.4% (IMF, 2021, projected figure)

GDP per capita

$69,231

Actual figure (IMF, 2021)
The UK is $47,203 (IMF, 2021, projected figure)

Currency

US dollar

Business languages

English

Time zone

GMT - 4 (Eastern)

Other timezones are GMT - 5 (Central), GMT - 6 (Mountain) and GMT - 7 (Pacific).

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Opportunities for exporters

There are opportunities for UK companies across a broad range of industries. Our trade advisers in the US have identified particular opportunities for UK businesses in the following sectors:

Check for trade barriers

Trade barriers, such as tariffs or taxes, can raise costs, cause delays, or even stop you from exporting. Check for any issues that may impact your business when exporting.

See current trade barriers

See resolved trade barriers

Check duties and customs

Find information on how to export goods from the UK. View the duties, rules, restrictions, and the documents you need for your products.

See current duties and customs procedures

Doing business in the US

Preparing to export

Tax

The US tax system is complex. Taxes can be imposed by both the US federal government and individual states, counties and cities. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) governs federal taxes in the US.

You’ll need to get tailored advice from a certified accountant or tax lawyer if exporting to the US.

There is no Value Added Tax (VAT) in the US. Sales tax varies from state to state.

You can find out more about state tax from the Federation of Tax Administrators.

Standards and technical regulations

You must check your product meets all legal requirements in the US and you have all the required licences.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has more information on legal standards.

Check the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) legislation and regulations relating to food and drink, drugs, medical devices and cosmetics.

Packaging and labelling

Labelling requirements for consumer commodities are enforced by the FDA.

There are specific labelling requirements for food, drugs, cosmetics and medical equipment.

Check local labelling regulations with the relevant state business bureau.

Export licensing and restrictions

You’ll need a license to export certain goods and services to the US because the import of some items is restricted or prohibited. Check with the UK’s Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) to find out whether you need an export license.

Check the US Customs & Border Protection’s (CBP) list of prohibited and restricted items.

Trade barriers

Check for any reported barriers to trading with the US.

Report any trade barriers that are affecting your business so we can help fix them.

Operating in the US

You should always get qualified legal guidance before entering into any agreement to do business in the US. Ideally, your contracts should be reviewed by lawyers who understand both US and UK law. The US Embassy has a list of American attorneys based in the UK.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and rights granted in the UK do not provide protection elsewhere. You should consider getting IP protection abroad if you want to trade overseas or sell to overseas customers via the internet.

The Intellectual Property Office provides practical information to help you protect, manage and enforce your IP abroad. Further support for British businesses can be found through a network of IP attachés, based in key UK export markets.

Payment terms

Your contract will specify the terms for payment. Any disputes will need to go through the US legal system for resolution. This generally takes place in the US state specified in the contract and follows state laws.

When agreeing terms you should decide on an exchange rate and whether to use sterling or US dollars.

Business culture

Business communications in the US tend to be very direct. Getting straight to the point is appreciated and negotiations are likely to be very focused on closing a deal. The fine detail of the legal aspects of a contract or written agreement are likely to be heavily scrutinised.

Insurance

UK Export Finance (UKEF) helps UK companies to get paid by insuring against buyer default.

Product liability law

You should make sure you understand product liability law and implement precautionary measures to reduce risk. These involve an investment of time and money and are an in-built cost of doing business in the US.

Entry requirements

You can visit the US for business for up to 90 days through the US Visa Waiver Program.

This is usually valid for 2 years or until your passport expires.

If you plan to work in the US, you’ll need a non-immigrant visa.

The US Embassy has more visa information.

Next steps

DIT can advise you on doing business abroad, and help put you in touch with other people who can help such as lawyers and distributors.